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IPL vs Laser Hair Removal: what’s right for you?

Ellie Taylor
Reading Time
6 min read
Laser Hair Removal

How do hair removal techniques like IPL and laser hair removal work?

Both IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and laser hair removal are professional hair removal treatments that use light waves to penetrate the skin. These light waves are absorbed by pigment in the hair, which creates heat. This heat destroys the cells that cause the hair follicle to grow, preventing them from growing back, resulting in permanent hair removal.

The darker the pigment of the hair, the more heat it absorbs more quickly, so both IPL and laser treatments are always more successful on darker hair.

What’s the difference between IPL and laser hair removal?

The key difference between IPL hair removal and Laser Hair Removal is that IPL uses a broad spectrum light wavelength and laser hair removal uses a concentrated beam. Effectively, with IPL, the light waves are more scattered, leading to a more shallow penetration. On the other hand, the concentrated beam generated by the laser in laser hair removal can be aimed directly at the hair follicle, allowing experts to predict exactly how much heat they need to generate to destroy the hair according to its colour.

As the light waves in IPL are less focused, they can lead to a higher risk of adverse reaction for darker skin types, as the heat can be absorbed by pigment in the skin rather than the hair itself.

With laser hair removal, the direct beam of the laser transfers more light more quickly, creating more heat in the hair follicle more safely.

This in turn leads to more efficient hair reduction and less risk of discomfort to the skin, so most people can expect to need fewer visits to their clinic for laser hair removal than they would with IPL.

The number of treatments required will depend on your hair and skin colour, your hair growth cycle and the area of the body you are treating but you can expect to need between 3 and 8 treatments to see results. Experts also say more regular treatments will work best.

Does IPL work for everyone?

The broad spectrum wavelength used by IPL means that IPL has always been limited to people with darker hair and paler skin, but the latest laser hair removal technologies allow successful hair removal for people with a wider range of skin colours.

Experts still say that both IPL and laser treatments will not work on blonde, red or grey hairs or very tanned skin as paler hair colours do not have sufficient pigment to absorb enough light to destroy the hair follicles, and tanned skin contains pigment that can attract the light waves. This can result in scarring and damage to the skin, which is why our practitioners will always ask about any sun exposure you’ve had prior to hair removal treatment.

Which should I have – IPL or laser hair removal?

Experts now universally recommend laser treatments over IPL for hair removal, but IPL does have its place in the aesthetic industry, as Debra Smyth, DestinationSkin clinic manager at Oxford Circus says: “In our clinics we use IPL for skin rejuvenation to treat pigmentation caused by sun damage and achieve fantastic results when treating red veins.

“As technology has evolved over the years, we use the latest lasers within our clinics and would recommend that you should choose laser rather than IPL for hair removal. Laser hair removal is more precise at treating dark hairs, and with the different advanced lasers treatments available at DestinationSkin we can treat all skin types safely and effectively.”


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